It happened in Rosario, Argentina. It was 1986 or 1987. One of the Christians came to speak with the missionaries, telling a tale of having been approached by an ex-member that wanted to recruit him for a new congregation.
The ex-member and some of his friends had been in touch with a man who planted churches in South America. Explaining their discontent with the missionaries, they asked for help. The church planter jumped at the chance, offering to send money on a regular basis. The ex-member and his disgruntled friends were to recruit others; those who wanted to be join the new congregation would be expected to sign their agreement with a list of rules, including:
- Church services would begin on the hour and end on the hour.
- No one would leave services to go to the bathroom.
- No prayers would be addressed to “the Lord”; Jesus is the Lord, and prayers are to be addressed to God.
- And so on. The church planter had many doctrinal differences with the missionaries in Rosario, but the list didn’t focus on those things. It was mainly about church organization.
Naturally the Christians who had written this church planter didn’t mention their struggles with addiction, their open practice of homosexuality and promiscuity, nor other such matters. And he didn’t ask. His interest was to find someone who would accept money for preaching the things that he wanted preached.
How many times have similar scenarios been played out? There is a church in Georgia that prides itself on troubling churches throughout Latin America on the question of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Others have gone out on a mission to promote this doctrine or that. The tool of choice? Money. Pay a preacher and you can tell him what to preach. Or so many seem to think. (To hear another voice on this subject, read “Dollars, doctrine and division inflict more damage on churches than Sandinistas“)
It’s the opposite of what we were talking about yesterday. It’s paternalism, not partnership. Or to put it plainly, it’s sin.
It takes courage to enter into partnership and let local Christians work out their own faith; faith based on Scripture and not on our principles and practices.